PolitiFact's “Lie Of The Year” Is One Of Fox's Favorite Health Care Lies

PolitiFact recently named “a government takeover of health care” as its 2010 “Lie of the Year” -- a lie that Fox News hosts and contributors have repeatedly promoted.

PolitiFact: “Government Takeover Of Health Care” Is The “Lie Of The Year”

PolitiFact: “Government Takeover Of Health Care” Is The “Lie Of The Year.” In its article declaring “a government takeover of health care” the Lie of the Year, PolitiFact wrote:

“Government takeover” conjures a European approach where the government owns the hospitals and the doctors are public employees. But the law Congress passed, parts of which have already gone into effect, relies largely on the free market:

· Employers will continue to provide health insurance to the majority of Americans through private insurance companies.

· Contrary to the claim, more people will get private health coverage. The law sets up “exchanges” where private insurers will compete to provide coverage to people who don't have it.

· The government will not seize control of hospitals or nationalize doctors.

· The law does not include the public option, a government-run insurance plan that would have competed with private insurers.

· The law gives tax credits to people who have difficulty affording insurance, so they can buy their coverage from private providers on the exchange. But here too, the approach relies on a free market with regulations, not socialized medicine.

PolitiFact reporters have studied the 906-page bill and interviewed independent health care experts. We have concluded it is inaccurate to call the plan a government takeover because it relies largely on the existing system of health coverage provided by employers.

It's true that the law does significantly increase government regulation of health insurers. But it is, at its heart, a system that relies on private companies and the free market.

Republicans who maintain the Democratic plan is a government takeover say that characterization is justified because the plan increases federal regulation and will require Americans to buy health insurance.

But while those provisions are real, the majority of Americans will continue to get coverage from private insurers. And it will bring new business for the insurance industry: People who don“t currently have coverage will get it, for the most part, from private insurance companies. [PolitiFact, 12/16/10]

Fox News' Sammon Directed Fox Reporters To Use “Government Option” Instead Of Public Option

Fox News Boss Ordered Reporters To Use Term “Government Option.” As Media Matters reported, at the height of the health care reform debate last fall, Bill Sammon, Fox News' Washington managing editor, sent a memo directing his network's journalists not to use the phrase “public option.” Instead, Sammon wrote, Fox's reporters should use “government option” and similar phrases -- wording that a top Republican pollster Frank Luntz had recommended in order to turn public opinion against Democrats' reform efforts. Two months prior to Sammon's 2009 memo, Luntz appeared on Sean Hannity's August 18 Fox News program. Luntz scolded Hannity for referring to the “public option” and encouraged Hannity to use “government option” instead. [Media Matters, 12/9/10]

Fox News Has Repeatedly Promoted The “Government Takeover” Lie

Cameron Uncritically Advances The “Government Takeover” Lie. On the August 12, 2009, edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, correspondent Carl Cameron reported that protesters at a health care town hall forum held by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) were “angry that Grassley is participating in the negotiations with Democrats out of fear that he might give away the store and let what critics say is a liberal big government takeover of health care advance unabated.” [Fox News' America's Newsroom, 8/12/09]

O'Reilly: “If The Government Takes Over Health Care ... More People Will Be Harmed.” On the August 19, 2009, edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly stated during a discussion of health care reform: “If the government takes over health care ... and begins to tell people when they can live and when they can die and the country goes bankrupt in the process ... more people will be harmed, including poor people.” [Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, 8/19/09]

Fox & Friends: Public Option Is A “Government Takeover”; “Should Technically Be” “Government-Run Health Care.” On the October 27, 2009, edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Gretchen Carlson said that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “wants to kick in ... a new name for the public option, which is really government-run health care. That's what the name should technically be.” Co-host Steve Doocy added, “Government takeover.” [Fox News' Fox & Friends, 10/27/09]

Carlson: “Shouldn't What We Really Call [The Public Option] Is A Government Takeover Of Health Care?” On October 28, 2009, Fox & Friends hosted Frank Luntz to criticize Pelosi's “rebranding” of the public option as the “consumer option.” During the discussion, Carlson asked Luntz: “Now we have Nancy Pelosi not wanting to call it the public option. Shouldn't what we really call it is a government takeover of health care? Is that why she now wants to call it the consumer option, to kind of shield that?” [Fox & Friends, 10/28/09]

Van Susteren: “If You Think We Should Have More Government-Run Health Care, Listen To This.” On the February 3 edition of Fox News' On the Record, host Greta Van Susteren stated, “If you think we should have more government-run health care, listen to this.” Van Susteren then explained that a Canadian official was seeking medical treatment in the United States and asked: "[I]f this guy is leaving Canada for treatment, should we really change our system to be more like Canada's?" [Fox News' On the Record, 2/3/10]

Morris Calls Health Care Reform “The Government Takeover Of The 16 Percent Of Our Economy That's Health Care.” On the February 4 edition of Fox & Friends, Fox News contributor Dick Morris called health care reform legislation “the government takeover of the 16 percent of our economy that's health care.” [Fox & Friends, 2/4/10]

Beck Calls Health Care Reform The “Government Takeover Of The Health Care System.” On the March 15 edition of his Fox News show, Glenn Beck called health care reform the “government takeover of the health care system.” [Fox News' Glenn Beck, 3/15/10, accessed via Nexis]

Hannity: "[D]octors have been railing about what a government takeover of health care could mean for families." On the March 16 edition of his show, Sean Hannity hosted a doctor opposed to health care reform and stated that “doctors have been railing about what a government takeover of health care could mean for families across the country.” [Fox News' Hannity, 3/16/10, accessed via Nexis]

Palin: “This Is Government Takeover.” On the March 17 edition of Hannity, Fox News contributor Sarah Palin stated: "[Y]ou know, we've spoken a lot, Sean, about what real health care reform, with a lot of broad based support, could look like for America. It could be patient centered. It could be free market oriented and it could actually have some results. This isn't reform. This is government takeover. This is about control." [Hannity, 3/17/10, accessed via Nexis]

Palin: Health Care Reform Is A “Government Takeover Of 1/6 Of Our Economy.” On the March 22 edition of Hannity, Palin stated during a discussion of health care reform: “Now thankfully, we have Michele Bachmann and we have others already out there on the road who are proposing ways to undo, to repeal this government takeover of 1/6 of our economy.” [Hannity, 3/22/10, accessed via Nexis]

O'Reilly Suggests Health Care Reform Is A “Government Takeover.” On the March 22 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly said to guest Gov. Ed Rendell: “There are good things in the bill, and I think fair-minded Americans across the board would say the pre-existing conditions, the tossing people off the rolls when they get sick -- all of that has to be controlled, but it could be controlled without a government takeover.” [Fox News' O'Reilly Factor, 3/22/10]

Beck Declares Health Care Reform To Be “Total Government Control Of Our Health Care System.” On the April 6 edition of his show, Beck stated that President Obama “has taken the first step towards socialization. Total government control of our health care system.” [Glenn Beck, 4/6/10]

FBN Reporter Byrnes: We're Moving Into An “All-Over Take-Over Of Health Care,” And People Need To “Prepare For It.” On the April 24 edition of Fox News' Cashin' In, Fox Business reporter Tracy Byrnes stated during a discussion of health care reform: “We are moving into pretty much an all-over takeover of health care, and people just need to sit back and prepare for it.” [Fox News' Cashin' In, 4/24/10]

Crowley Calls Health Care Reform A “Government Takeover.” On the October 19 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, Fox News contributor Monica Crowley stated: “You have had over the last two years government takeovers of the auto industry, the banks, health care, student loans, and an attempt to take over of the energy sector.” [The O'Reilly Factor, 10/19/10, accessed via Nexis]

Luntz: “Buck ... Had One Of The Best Ads Of The Election Cycle When He Said That Washington Didn't Listen When They Took A Government Takeover Of Health Care.” On Fox News' November 3 election coverage, Luntz stated that “Ken Buck from Colorado had one of the best ads of the election cycle when he said that Washington didn't listen when they took a government takeover of health care.” [Fox News election coverage, 11/3/10, accessed via Nexis]

Napolitano: Bachmann Is “Fighting Democrats On The Constitutionality Of A National Takeover Of Health Care.” Guest-hosting the November 4 edition of Glenn Beck, Fox News analyst Andrew Napolitano hosted Rep. Michele Bachmann and said that Bachmann is “fighting Democrats on the constitutionality of a national takeover of health care, and she wants your help in the fight.” [Glenn Beck, 11/4/10]

Fox News Contributor Luntz Coined The Lie Of The Year

PolitiFact: Luntz “Urged GOP Leaders To Call It A 'Government Takeover.'” From PolitiFact's Lie of the Year post:

In the spring of 2009, a Republican strategist settled on a brilliant and powerful attack line for President Barack Obama's ambitious plan to overhaul America's health insurance system. Frank Luntz, a consultant famous for his phraseology, urged GOP leaders to call it a “government takeover.”

“Takeovers are like coups,” Luntz wrote in a 28-page memo. “They both lead to dictators and a loss of freedom.”

The line stuck. By the time the health care bill was headed toward passage in early 2010, Obama and congressional Democrats had sanded down their program, dropping the “public option” concept that was derided as too much government intrusion. The law passed in March, with new regulations, but no government-run plan.

But as Republicans smelled serious opportunity in the midterm elections, they didn't let facts get in the way of a great punchline. [PolitiFact, 12/16/10]